Board of Directors votes to implement eSports as a pilot activity

(Pittou2/Flickr)

AURORA — Colorado is dipping its toe into the realm of high school eSports.

CHSAA's Board of Directors on Wednesday voted to approve eSports as a pilot activity, a first step along the road to potential sanctioning.

"eSports has the potential to provide opportunities for more students to become engaged in their school and communities," said CHSAA commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green. "Many of these participants may not be involved in any other activity in their school. eSports will provide the same opportunity to this population that many other traditional sports and activities have provided to other students in their schools."

The Board heard presentations from Sean Collins, an assistant principal at Arvada West, and Laz Alberto, the vice president of PlayVS, which is the official eSports league of the NFHS and a leading authority in the genre.

eSports would be treated as a competitive activity under the CHSAA umbrella, if all hurdles along the way to sanctioning are approved. If all steps along the process are completed, it could become sanctioned in 2022.

"Gaming pares down boundaries," Collins said. "This is who I have on my team: A varsity wrestler, a varsity baseball player, a cheerleader, I have kids from marching band, I have kids who aren't on any other teams. And they are all playing on the same team, competing against kids from the other Jeffco area."

The first of the pilot seasons will begin this fall.

eSports teams will be co-ed. There will be no classifications, and the fact that matches are played online means there are no travel costs associated with the activity.

"If adopted, this would be the first competitive activity that has no boundaries or classifications," Blanford-Green said. "A kid in rural district, such as Springfield, could easily compete against a kid from a metro school, for example, a Cherry Creek."

CHSAA's pilot will be run by PlayVS, which recently completed an initial season with five states. During that initial season, 41 percent of students on eSports teams had never participated in a school-sponsored activity.

This season, PlayVS will run competitions in 15 states.

"Kids are already playing eSports," Alberto said. "Your kids care about eSports. Us entering into this field will be a meaningful opportunity."

PlayVS has partnership agreements with various publishers, and offers the following games: League of Legends, Rocket League and Smite. The setup calls for fall (October to January) and spring (February to May) seasons, but CHSAA would look to combine the two into one season during the winter, if sanctioned.

"We believe that it would be more impactful as a standalone during a winter season showcase," Blanford-Green said.